Monday, June 24, 2013

The Illustrated Desert

Chris asked about famous 'natural wonders' of Wampus Country.  Here's the first.


To the east, beyond Frogport and Crumbledown and south of Massacre Mesa, lies a small arid region rightly famous for its beauty, splendor, and danger.  Some call it a painted desert, but only someone who has never actually visited the place could deem it equivalent with the chestnut striping of the so-called 'painted' deserts known elsewhere.  In truth, it is an Illustrated Desert, alive with color and pictures as bright as the rainbow.

The sand dunes and stony outcroppings of the Illustrated Desert present themselves in myriad colors, from brilliant vermilion to sweet and subtle lavender.  Trekkers find themselves stepping on a different hue every few steps, as the ground is a patchwork of tones, shapes, and striping.  Here are larger blocks of color in geometric shapes; there is a tiny 'pond' of shifting sands in madras or plaid.  The particles of sand seem to self-organize and change their color over a period of days or weeks, lifting themselves into spires and collapsing again in a splash resembling nothing so much as a spilled box of crayons.  Thus, navigation in the Illustrated Desert is quite difficult; one must use the stars or years of experience, as the terrain shifts several times weekly.  The watering hole that was "in the shadow of the green arch, surrounded by indigo sands" last week may today be encircled by lemon-colored drifts, and that verdant arch has dissolved into a clump of crimson rocks.


A race of dwarf-kin, the Hok dwell within the Illustrated Desert, and beneath it in ancient tunnels composed of the same colorful shifting-rock as the surface.  Developing their culture in these surroundings, one might surmise that the Hok know quite a bit about color and space, and indeed they do, but their primary obsession is time.  To live in the Illustrated Desert, they must understand the ways of the sands and extrapolate what the environment will be based on what it is, and was.  Thus is Hok philosophy centered around the procession of time and cyclical patterns.  The Hok celebrate a pantheon of godlings which include several earth spirits as well as a manifestation of Tix-ka-tix, the Temporal Cicada.  It is perhaps only their association with these godlings which has protected the Hok from the degenerative shapeshifting associated with the bestial denizens of the Illustrated Desert.

The arts of the dwarf-kin feature sand-painting, resplendent tattooing, and of course stonecarving.  Masters of the sands often bear multiple tattoos carefully crafted from the living sand-particles of the Illustrated Desert; an ancient methodology allows the Hok to create and wear seemingly-living tattoos which writhe, animate, and change color.  Warriors wear armor carved carefully from bits of colored limestone (counts as chain or banded) and carry undulating shortswords made of similar material.  The Hok color their hair and beards with dyes made from the desert sands, sometimes treating the hair with vinegars or urine to make the colors even more brilliant.


Generations of proximity to, and perhaps inadvertent consumption of, the magical shifting-sands of the desert have lent a fungible quality to the denizens of the Illustrated Desert.  Animals of the desert have fuzzy borders, change color minute to minute, their limbs sometimes melt and reform, and some of them bear a colorful orbiting nimbus of sand and gobbets of flesh.  Many of them are improbable hybrids, having multiple heads, serpent-heads on their tails, vestigial wings facing strange directions, etc; scholarly opinion holds that the creatures native to the Illustrated Desert have been mashed-up over centuries by subtle magics, and they cannot now live outside the influence of the sands.
Best to imagine everything as drawn by Scrap Princess, really.
The Illustrated Desert has become an occasional destination for hunting-parties seeking to bag a remarkable trophy, such as a manticore, chimera, or hydra.  Few such expeditions are wholly successful, as the desert creatures are wily in the extreme, having to subsist on one another.  A chimera which hunts deer may grow dull and lazy, but a chimera which must feed on manticores must become clever or perish.


Base creature

1 - Non-Lernean Hydra (20% pyro, 10% cryo for no reason)
2 - Chimera
3 - Manticore
4 -Desert Trollsquatch (stats as troll, big blonde sasquatch)
5 - Giant Snake
6 - Cockatrice (gaze attack turns victim to a pile of colored sand)
7 - Giant Sand Lizard
8 - Sandsharks
9 - Gorgimera
10 - Sphinx
11 - Warthog
12 - Baby-Stealing Dingo
13 - Swarm of hiveminded carnivorous prairie dogs
14 - Badlands Roper
15 - Su-Monsters (because why not)
16 - Two-headed Vultures
17 - Mutant Baboons (roll on your favorite mutation table in addition to reskinning it)
18 - Aurumvorax
19 - Behir
20 - Ostrich

Then reskin several of the animal's parts using the 'hybrid' table (see Random Tables tab).  Consider an extra head (30% chance if you want to randomize it).  All of the denizens gain a +4 on saves against any sort of magical effect which would transform them.

1 comment: